Wikipedia's Top Hits: In America, George W. Bush's Entry Most Controversial

A new study of the most controversial entries on Wikipedia, the crowd sourced, online encyclopedia, shows that in the English language entry most fought over is the biography of George W. Bush.

The authors of The Most Controversial Topics in Wikipedia, a study that looked at the most controversial pages by language group, finds some topics stir passions in all cultures--such as matters of religion, God, Jesus, and Muhammad--while others are dependent on more localized matters--such as ages old ethnic conflicts and local politics.

The study looked at the pages that are fought over the most by constant behind the scenes editing by users. The most debated pages undergo what the study terms "edit wars," which is the back and forth of "reverts," the action of undoing what another editor added. The goal of the study was to find what subjects were most controversial by language, but also to see what topics straddled cultures.

Maybe unsurprisingly, in the English language Wiki, which is visited most heavily in the United States, the bio of George W. Bush still elicits hot controversy. Bush's entry appears at the very top among the top ten most edited pages in English. Anarchism comes in second and Muhammad third.

But other topics come in for high passions in the other language groups looked at for the study. In French, female politician Marie-Ségolène Royal is most edited, in Spanish the country of Chile is most debated, and, strangely, the Czechs seem to be most interested in homosexuality. Germanic speakers are most concerned about Croatia.

While the top concerns are all different befitting different cultural interests, one topic seems to appear in the top ten of many of the language groups: Jesus. But even as Jesus himself doesn't appear in every Wiki language group the subjects of religion in the forms of Christianity and Islam seem to appear in some form in all of them.

The study also seemed to indicate that many issues are geographically centered in areas that speak particular languages. Portuguese articles, for instance, seemed to cluster around issues and controversies located in Brazil, the largest Portuguese-speaking nation in the world. Japanese Wikis showed the same cultural self-interest. French, English, and German seemed to be the only languages that evinced a wider range of topics spanning the globe.

The study was produced by an Oxford professor, two from Hungary, and one from the United States and will appear in an upcoming book to be published in 2014 by Scarecrow Press.


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